I wrote here immediately after Donald Trump’s convention speech that he would take a small (I predicted 45-42) lead in the polls that would be out last week, but that, after the Democratic Convention, Hillary would immediately retake a small but significant advantage. That first forecast turned out to be pretty darn close, and the very early indications are that, if anything, Hillary will over-preform my 46-43 projection (the first four major post-convention polls have her leading by about 47-42).
Coming to these conclusions was hardly some sort of “rocket science.” Despite what liberal pollster Nate Silver (whom I took on here last November over Trump and dusted him) would like to have you believe, interpreting polls is mostly an exercise in common sense. The fact that Silver hilariously made Trump the favorite to win the election last week, should, when Trump inevitably loses, seal his fate as the Dick Morris of this cycle (though, since he’s a liberal, he may get a “pass” due to this supposedly being such a “crazy” election year).
Now, I realize that many observers will say that the polls this week, while interesting, are hardly decisive (it should be noted that the post-convention polls in 2012 turned out to be rather predictive). After all, it is only the start of August and there are still (presumably) three debates and lots of time for major news events to impact the electorate, which is clearly very volatile and largely “undecided.”
However, I believe in this unique election cycle there are several factors which make the polls over the next week or so potentially the moment we look back on and, in retrospect, realize that the election was won by Hillary (or, more accurately, lost by Trump).
Both candidates are probably more well-known at this stage than any in modern history. If you are not already on the Trump Train, what, other than a major news event outside of his control, exactly is going to get you to buy a ticket now?
It is really hard to see how either nominee, especially Trump, suddenly greatly expands their vote percentages now that their access to massive audiences has been effectively cut off until the debates. With our media completely fragmented and our populace more distracted than ever, the conventions really are incredibly rare chances to get a message out, largely unfiltered by the media.
This opportunity was particularly vital for Trump because most of the news media’s obvious bias towards Democrats. If Trump really has “shot his wad” and Hillary is now still in the lead (and more importantly, Trump is stuck in the low 40s) then how does he turn it around now? She has far more money to spend and her organization is much more robust than his. Yes, she still has a problem with Bernie Sanders supporters and extremely low likability numbers, but since she isn’t running against a legitimate GOP candidate, she is very much on track to slog to victory, especially with huge advantages in the Electoral College.
Making matters even worse for Trump is that his very persona demands, and the essence of his candidacy depends greatly on, the perception that he is winning, or at the very least, could easily win. There are a large percentage of Republicans (at least 20% of the party) who are only holding their nose for him because they currently think he can at least stop Hillary from winning. Like a rocket ship without fuel, the Trump campaign will instantly crash and burn if it is perceived that this is highly unlikely.
Also, because of Trump’s bombastic style, it is absolutely critical for him to at least be very close in the polls. As he proved time and again during the primaries, attacking from a position of leverage is his greatest political weapon. However, if he is perceived as doing so from a place of weakness, or even desperation, all of a sudden those attacks on Hillary will be rendered impotent, and maybe even mock-able. Given Trump’s temperament, this could easily create a downward spiral effect from which he never recovers.
We are already seeing how ill-suited Trump is to compete, especially now that the mainstream news media appears to be, as everyone with a brain expected, finally falling mostly in line with Hillary, in the daily grind of a “normal” news cycle. There is no better example of that than the current controversy over the “Gold Star” Khan family and their convention speech condemning Trump for his views on Muslims. Now that his opponent is a Democrat, the news media is happy to turn a one-day story into a week-long disaster for him and he seems all-too-willing to help them.
Trump’s ego, ignorance of basic issues, and inability to control himself will continue to feed the lazy news media easy fodder on a daily basis. With Trump having no unfettered access to the swing voters who control his electoral fate, the far more disciplined Hillary will win the battle of the news cycles, which will at least enable her to maintain her lead (again, barring major news) up until the debates.
Many political observers mistakenly think that a presidential election is like a sporting event where on that one day “anything can happen.” I see them far more like poker games. At this point there is likely only one more card to draw and, if Hillary’s convention bounce is what it seems to be, Trump is holding a far inferior hand with no apparent Ace in the hole.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.